A New Approach is NOW Needed for Ad Agency New Business

inbound marketing for ad agency new business

Business development has undergone a major change.

New business has historically been a problem for agencies.

  • Most small to midsize agencies have no positioning and no point of differentiation. They look and sound the same.
  • They are often treated as vendors because they lack a positioning of expertise.
  • Most don’t have a target audience thus, no focus for business development efforts.
  • They are their own worst clients, the cobbler’s children with no shoes.
  • No appeal beyond their local market.
  • Forced to use interruption tactics to build awareness.

But, with all of these problems, new business is now much more difficult because of a paradigm shift that has taken place due to The Great Recession and the empowerment of prospects.

My epiphany regarding this shift in new business practices came from a CMO study conducted in 2007, 80% of decision makers said they found their vendors, not the other way around.

It’s now more important to be found than to chase new business. Interruptive type tactics such as cold calls, email blasts and direct mail have become ineffective and inefficient.

Instead of being the hunter, you need to learn how to become the prey.

Practicing what I preach

I was the first new business consultant for advertising agencies to adopt social media. I’ve been an active participant and innovator since creating my blog, Fuel Lines, back in 2007. It has ranked among the top 100 global marketing blogs in the world according to Ad Age’s Power 150. My Fuel Lines’ newsletter now has over 33,000 subscribers. I’ve also amassed a significant following of over 104,000 in Twitter.

Even though I was a “cold-caller” from way back, I have never made a single cold call for any new business or speaking engagement. All of my opportunities have been fueled through an integrated inbound marketing strategy.

From my home base outside of Birmingham, Alabama, I was able to build an international consultancy quickly. I’ve now conducted over 170 workshops for advertising, digital, media and PR agencies in the U.S., as well as with agencies in 14 other countries.

My switch from outbound to an inbound marketing strategy has allowed me to conduct training and speak at events sponsored by the leading agency associations such as the 4A’s, Business Marketing Association (BMA), The Direct Marketing Association (DMA), American Advertising Federation (AAF), Association of Strategic Marketing (ASM), BOLO, Mirren, TAAN, MCAN, Magnet Global Network, PRSA, The Network One and Worldwide Partners.

The way inbound marketing, fueled by content and social media marketing, has worked for me is exactly how it can work for your agency.

Agency owners must believe

Most agencies didn’t have much of a presence in social media until 2010. They were late to the party. When agencies decided to jump-in, they literally just jumped-in. To show their social media credentials they would create their agency’s blog, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook accounts. But, the typical agency hasn’t had much social media success for new business. Primarily because they have …

  • No plan
  • No goal
  • No target audience
  • No integration
  • No consistency
  • No value (self promotional)
  • No traffic
  • No leads
  • No new business

Before agencies will have success transitioning from outbound to inbound and committing the time and resources, agency owners have to become believers.

I was a believer early on

I started my consultancy at the beginning of the recession and with three kids in college. I had only worked in two markets my entire advertising career.

How could I build awareness and create appeal for my business quickly?

Social media was just beginning to become mainstream. I realize its potential early on and I launched my blog providing helpful content for business development. My fourth new client was on the West Coast in Costa Messa, California. What would it have taken for me to have recieved that opportunity using traditional marketing methods? I became a believer and was all in.

The reason that I am such an advocate for this new approach for new business is understanding the multiplicity of benefits it provides:

  • It to solves the problem of positioning and differentiating your agency without the pain and risk.
  • By creating a system for creating appealing content to draw in your prospective clients, you also are creating a positioning of expertise.
  • A new business program that is easier and more consistent to maintain even when your agency is busy.
  • It can greatly increase your agency’s online footprint to be found by your best prospects.
  • Easily maintain awareness 24/7 without having to rely on interruptive type tactics.
  • It allows you to control the agency/client relationship from the beginning.
  • The ability to be more selective and “trade-up” accounts that allows you to be more selective in working with clients that are a better fit for your agency.
  • You are able to charge a higher premium for your agency’s services.
  • It greatly enhances your capabilities for creating new business through networking and referrals.
  • Increase your agency’s new business opportunities without RFPs or pitching.
  • It is much easier for creating a system for vetting unqualified prospects and wasting valuable time, resources and energy.
  • The ability to dominate search rankings to be found by your best prospects.
  • Calls-to-action and marketing automation tactics that will convert leads into new business opportunities.
  • Your personalized continuing educational program that will help you to achieve and maintain a positioning of expertise and leadership.
  • Many more time management tools and tactics that provide a better return on your time investment.
  • A new business program that is measurable and easier to improve.

You will never understand social media without participation

Only when you are actively engaged in social media will you know its benefits and how it can actually make new business easier.

I was conducting a workshop for an agency in Louisiana. The agency’s creative director, a Baby Boomer, looked at me taking notes on my iPad and frustratingly said, “I don’t know how to create an ad for that.” I asked him what he was going to do about his lack of knowledge. He had such a look of despair on his face as he replied that he didn’t have a clue. I don’t ever want to be that way.

I recently turned fifty-seven. Just a few weeks ago, I was training a group of twenty year olds on how to use social media for business development. I’m still relevant because I have a process that will keep me relevant for decades to come. Do you?

photo credit: Furryscaly via photopin cc

About Michael Gass

Consultant | Trainer | Author | Speaker

Since 2007, he has been pioneering the use of social media, inbound and content marketing strategies specifically for agency new business.

He is the founder of Fuel Lines Business Development, LLC, a firm which provides business development training and consulting services to advertising, digital, media and PR agencies.

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